The original Aladdin wasn’t a big part of my childhood. I don’t particularly have any strong emotional attachment to it. To be honest, I barely remember it. I went into this live-action remake fresh and with minimal expectations. Happy to say, I came out pleasantly surprised and entertained.
The film wastes no time in thrusting you into the land of Agrabah. Agrabah has been fully realized, thanks to some wonderful sets and production design. It’s colorful and full of life, and feels like a real, breathing location for our characters to embark on their adventures in. Aladdin is a lavish production and the budget clearly shines through on the screen in most set pieces. Unfortunately, there were a few instances of the CGI not being up to the same quality as the rest of the film.
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One of the films biggest successes is casting a charismatic leading pair. Mena Massoud and Naomi Scott as Aladdin and Princess Jasmine are both immensely likable. They share real chemistry in their moments together and have great screen presence. Will Smith as the genie is excellent and does his own rendition of the character that turns out delightful. The only weak spot is Marwan Kenzari’s Jafar who suffers on account of being another one note and underwritten villain. Nasim Pedrad as Dalia, Jasmine’s handmaiden is a fine addition and confidently delivers some of the films biggest laughs.
I’m still struggling to understand what made Guy Ritchie the director of choice for this project. The film has none of his stylistic or narrative trademarks. I’d never imagined he’d directed it if I didn’t know. I was excited to see him inject some of his own personality into this beloved tale. This did not come to be. It strikes me as a case of getting someone seasoned to get the job done by the book.
The plot is quite simple and doesn’t stray too far from the original. However, with the benefit of added running time, there are missed opportunities to better flesh out some aspects of the story. While the screenplay is mostly fast-moving and consistently engaging, the climax feels under-cooked and a bit rushed. Some narrative developments in the action at the end that seem entirely pointless. There’s some solid jokes and dramatic beats. Aladdin has all the staple ingredients of being a Disney entertainment package for the whole family and doesn’t disappoint in that regard. Most of the songs are beautifully realized and choreographed. Even the new additions work and are seamlessly blended into the narrative.
Aladdin doesn’t soar to the heights of a whole new world but has just enough magic to grant you a single wish of an enjoyable 2 hours at the theater.